Opera Philadelphia

Published25 Apr 2024

Anthony Roth Costanzo appointed General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia

The countertenor and producer who “exists to transform opera” will lead the company known as “a hotbed of operatic innovation”

The Opera Philadelphia Board of Directors has unanimously approved the appointment of Anthony Roth Costanzo as General Director and President effective June 1, 2024. A GRAMMY-winning countertenor and creative producer who ”exists to transform opera” (The New York Times), Costanzo will shape the future of a company known as “a hotbed of operatic innovation” (The New York Times), overseeing fundraising and business strategies, audience development, community initiatives, and artistic planning.

He will continue his singing career, which has taken him to the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, English National Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia, the New York Philharmonic, and The Philadelphia Orchestra, among many others. Costanzo has also thrived as a producer and curator, creating and producing the New York Philharmonic’s celebrated Bandwagon initiative during the Covid-19 pandemic, deepening community relationships through pop-up neighborhood concerts. He premiered the operatic art installation Glass Handel at Opera Philadelphia’s second Festival O in 2018. The large-scale performance attracted stars from visual art, film, fashion, and dance, sold out three performances at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, and went on to sold-out runs in New York and London. He most recently performed with Opera Philadelphia in 2022, leading the fundraising concert Only an Octave Apart with Justin Vivian Bond, based on their studio album of the same name.

Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo has been named General Director of Opera Philadelphia Credit: Matthew Placek

“We set the goal of finding a new, creative leader who would be capable of taking Opera Philadelphia to even greater levels of artistic and business success. Of the nearly 40 impressive candidates reviewed, Anthony Roth Costanzo rose to the top and emerged as the ideal leader at this important time in our history,” said Stephen K. Klasko, Chair of Opera Philadelphia’s Board of Directors. “Anthony is a visionary, innovative, and strategic thinker, and an artist of unsurpassed quality. It is unprecedented for an opera singer in the prime of his performing career to take on this type of CEO role at a major opera company. He will set a new paradigm for our industry as a working artist running the business side of an organization.”

The leadership role at Opera Philadelphia is an artistic homecoming for Costanzo, who began performing professionally at the age of 11 and has since appeared in opera, concert, recital, film, and on Broadway.

“Opera Philadelphia makes art at the highest level, and this incredible company has been a part of my artistic life for the past 30 years,” said Costanzo. “I distinctly remember standing behind the curtain at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia listening to the audience roar. It was 1996, and I had just finished singing the shepherd boy in Tosca starring Luciano Pavarotti. Before he went in front of the curtain to take his bow, he extended his hand for me to come with him. As I stood beside that lion of opera, looking out at an audience that he had single-handedly introduced to this art form, I knew that I not only wanted to be a part of this tradition, but I also wanted to be part of carrying it forward in an impactful way. Little did I know that I would return to the same stage to star in an opera myself with Opera Philadelphia some twenty-odd years later. But singing in operas has only been part of my journey as an artist. I have found that perhaps the greatest impact I can have comes in what I produce, create, imagine, and what stories I can help find a voice.”

As opera has evolved to adapt to a changing landscape and shifting audiences in recent decades, Opera Philadelphia is leading the field in honoring the legacy of the art form alongside the development of new opera. The company’s new works practice, which has produced more than 25 staged and filmed operas in the past decade, is anchored by a commitment to fostering a new generation of opera creators and telling authentic stories.

“Opera Philadelphia’s reputation for excellence and innovation in our sector allows for infinite possibility, and the collaborative spirit here is the kind of environment in which I thrive,” said Costanzo, who is known for his portrayal of the title role in Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, and has been a champion of contemporary music, working with composers like George Lewis, Kaija Saariaho, Osvaldo Golijov, Missy Mazzoli, Joel Thompson, Matthew Aucoin, John Corigliano, and more. “Building on the company’s foundation of artistic success and their efforts to engage communities near and far, I am confident of an exciting future of strategic and creative growth in the years ahead.”

Costanzo will be the seventh General Director since the company was founded in 1975, succeeding David B. Devan, whose 18-year tenure with the company, including 13 years as General Director, concludes on May 31, 2024.

“I want to thank everyone who contributed to the rigorous and equitable search for Opera Philadelphia’s next General Director, especially the members of the search committee alongside Chartise Clark and Stephen Milbauer of Koya Partners, who skillfully managed the process,” said Opera Philadelphia Board member David Ferguson, who served as search committee chair. “We met with an incredibly impressive pool of talented candidates who recognize the important standing Opera Philadelphia holds in our city and on a world stage. In Anthony Roth Costanzo, we have identified a leader who will build on the company’s practices of artistic achievement, new work development, inclusion, and community service.”

“Anthony Roth Costanzo is one of the most gifted and intelligent artists to ever perform with Opera Philadelphia, and he is the ideal choice to lead the company as we enter our upcoming 50th season,” said Corrado Rovaris, the company’s Jack Mulroney Music Director, who served on the search committee. “I look forward to partnering with Anthony and the talented staff and artists who make Opera Philadelphia such a special and vital place.”

Recently awarded a GRAMMY, an honorary doctorate from Manhattan School of Music, a visiting fellowship from Oxford University, and the History Makers Award from the New York Historical Society, Costanzo is a distinguished visiting scholar at Harvard, a recipient of the 2020 Beverly Sills Award from the Metropolitan Opera, a winner of the 2020 Opera News Award, and Musical America’s 2019 Vocalist of the Year. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University, where he has returned to teach, and received his Master of Music from the Manhattan School of Music, where he now serves on the board of Trustees. He is also on the board of National Black Theatre.

“What an inspired and daring choice! Having worked closely with Anthony on the New York Philharmonic's iconic Bandwagon as well as when he was our Artist in Residence, one learns a great deal about the artist and the human being,” said Deborah Borda, the retired President and CEO of the New York Philharmonic. “His creativity, energy and ‘roll up your sleeves’ work ethic is an intimation of the achievements that lie ahead. It is an appointment that will make a real difference to the world of opera and indeed music.”

Having recently made his Paris Opera debut in a new production of Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel, Costanzo continues his season as a performer with roles as Orfeo in Orfeo ed Eurydice at the Metropolitan Opera (May 16-June 8) and as Jonathan in the World Premiere of The Righteous by Gregory Spears and Tracy K. Smith at Santa Fe Opera (July 13-Aug. 13). He will also co-produce and star in the world premiere of The Comet/Poppea (June 15-23), conceived and directed by Yuval Sharon, presented by The Industry and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, in partnership with AMOC* (American Modern Opera Company) and Curtis Institute of Music.

Opera Philadelphia’s 2023-2024 concludes with a new production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, with four performances from April 26-May 5. The company’s 50th season begins in September with the American premiere of The Listeners (Sept. 25, 27, 29, 2024) by Philadelphia-born composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek, and will also include the company premiere of The Anonymous Lover (Jan. 31 & Feb. 2, 2025) by Joseph Bologne and Mozart’s Don Giovanni (April 25, 27, May 2, 4, 2025), all at the historic Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

About Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia, the only American finalist for both the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company and the 2020 International Opera Award for Best Festival, is “the very model of a modern opera company” (Washington Post). Committed to developing opera for the 21st century, the company is recognized as “a hotbed of operatic innovation” (New York Times). For more information, visit operaphila.org.

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